August 29, 2019

Enjoying The Moment In The Garden

Purple pole beans are the highlight of this year's garden.

When did you last take the time to enjoy the moment and feel fully alive? 

When was the last time you have been fully aware of the breath going in and out of your body? 

Or were still enough to hear your own heartbeat and know that the blood was still pumping through your veins?

For me, one of those times came yesterday as I was laying in the grass next to my raised bed garden. 

Initially I wanted to get a different photographic perspective on things, but as I lay there, I felt all stress wash away. 

Something came into my awareness. A tiny, hairy beautiful beast.



A beautiful beastie in my garden. I had just finished watering, so that explains the water drops in the caterpillar's hair.



We spent some time together. "Enjoy now", it reminded me, and I did just that. 

Then I picked the purple pole beans and bush beans that will keep us fed over the coming winter. 

There is no such thing as a bad day in the garden. I enjoy every moment I spend there.


August 26, 2019

Save The Earth - Do Nothing

This looks like a nice place to lay down and do nothing for a few minutes.


“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water or watching the clouds float across the sky is by no mean a waste of time.”

- John Lubbock


I am liking this quote right now, as the signs of seasonal change are upon us. 

Precious hours of daylight are getting shorter, the hummingbird feeder is less crowded, the garden wants harvesting, and Southern Hemispherians are talking about spring again. 

I have to lie on the grass and enjoy summer before it is gone.

Back to the quote. 

Rest is good, but what's wrong with idleness? I fully endorse idleness. In any season. Anton Chekhov thought that "there is no happiness that is not idleness".

The world would be better off if everyone were restful, relaxed, still, quiet, sedentary, or idle, more often. Blasé Pascal agreed when he wrote, 


"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."

People in consumer cultures often report wanting to have a break from the drudgery of it all. Work. Shop. Repeat. When do we ever stop?

After several decades of labour saving devices, why do we still have no time to sit quietly in a room alone? Because in the non-stop world of consuming, our insatiable desires must be met 24/7.

What if we were to increase our relaxation/contemplation time by 5%? 10%? 50%? I can guarantee that would be a life changing event, and I speak from both a research perspective as well as personal experience.

Increasing our non-consumptive activities has the power to make us happier and healthier. 

And it would certainly result in less harm to the environment.

Save the Earth - Do nothing more often.









August 23, 2019

Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto




Civilizations are fragile. Knowing that allows us to be ready for their inevitable demise. It is a cycle that has turned many times already in human history. It is now turning again.

Warning us of an impending storm is not pessimism or doomsdayism. It is being prepared.

When the approaching storm rages, I want to have my umbrella ready. That is why I appreciate projects like the Dark Mountain Manifesto. 

"Written by Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, [The Dark Mountain Manifesto] marked a first attempt to put into words the ideas and feelings which led to The Dark Mountain Project. 
Think of it as a flag raised so that we can find one another. A point of departure, rather than a party line. An invitation to a larger conversation that continues to take us down unexpected paths."


I

WALKING ON LAVA

"The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilisation."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson


Those who witness extreme social collapse at first hand seldom describe any deep revelation about the truths of human existence. What they do mention, if asked, is their surprise at how easy it is to die.

The pattern of ordinary life, in which so much stays the same from one day to the next, disguises the fragility of its fabric. How many of our activities are made possible by the impression of stability that pattern gives? So long as it repeats, or varies steadily enough, we are able to plan for tomorrow as if all the things we rely on and don’t think about too carefully will still be there. When the pattern is broken, by civil war or natural disaster or the smaller-scale tragedies that tear at its fabric, many of those activities become impossible or meaningless, while simply meeting needs we once took for granted may occupy much of our lives.

What war correspondents and relief workers report is not only the fragility of the fabric, but the speed with which it can unravel. As we write this, no one can say with certainty where the unravelling of the financial and commercial fabric of our economies will end. Meanwhile, beyond the cities, unchecked industrial exploitation frays the material basis of life in many parts of the world, and pulls at the ecological systems which sustain it.

Precarious as this moment may be, however, an awareness of the fragility of what we call civilisation is nothing new.

‘Few men realise,’ wrote Joseph Conrad in 1896, ‘that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.’ 

Conrad’s writings exposed the civilisation exported by European imperialists to be little more than a comforting illusion, not only in the dark, unconquerable heart of Africa, but in the whited sepulchres of their capital cities. The inhabitants of that civilisation believed ‘blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and its morals, in the power of its police and of its opinion,’ but their confidence could be maintained only by the seeming solidity of the crowd of like-minded believers surrounding them. 

Outside the walls, the wild remained as close to the surface as blood under skin, though the city-dweller was no longer equipped to face it directly.

Bertrand Russell caught this vein in Conrad’s worldview, suggesting that the novelist, 

"thought of civilised and morally tolerable human life as a dangerous walk on a thin crust of barely cooled lava which at any moment might break and let the unwary sink into fiery depths."

What both Russell and Conrad were getting at was a simple fact which any historian could confirm: human civilisation is an intensely fragile construction. It is built on little more than belief: belief in the rightness of its values; belief in the strength of its system of law and order; belief in its currency; above all, perhaps, belief in its future. 




You can read the rest of The Dark Mountain Manifesto at this link. It makes for an interesting read, ending with "The Eight Principles of Uncivilization". 


#1. We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. 
All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. 
We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.




You can say this is all very harsh news (although it isn't really news at all if you have been paying attention in recent decades). 

I think otherwise. I think we live in interesting times, and that opportunities abound. 

It is not like what we have now is so great. I say let's let it die. Or better yet, how about we put it out of its misery, and move on sooner, rather than later.

Together, we will learn to live more gently on this good Earth. Together, we will respond to the new reality honestly and simply.

Together, we will go on. 



August 20, 2019

Consumerism From The Point of View of Artist Tony Futura


"We have the entire world at our fingertips and have no idea what to do with it."

Tony Futura is a German multimedia digital artist based in Berlin. He creates art that pushes the viewer to see materialism and the pop-culture obsession of modern Western life differently.

I can't get enough of that kind of thing, so will let Futura, and his art, do the talking.








"My work has a strong focus on visual ideas that combine objects and play with known images to create a new perspective on things we know from pop-culture, art, consumerism and everyday life."








"I like to work with points of view on things, so i am quite interested in what people think about certain images or other people like celebrities for example."















"I would rather spent money on high quality clothes then buying new stuff every couple of weeks."










"I always have the feeling that i need more time to enjoy life and work more on my personal projects."









"The search for new ways to see things is quite fun and there is not a single day where I can't stop thinking about what I can do next."




August 16, 2019

Work-Buy-Storage-Die?


In what is mistakenly called the civilized world, we like our houses. We have houses for people, and then separate houses for our cars, which are often attached to the house for the people. 

Lots of yards also have smaller houses for lawn and garden tools.

Many people also rent off site mini-houses (more like apartments) for all the extra stuff that doesn't fit into the people house, the car house, or the yard and garden house.

The USA has 2.63 billion square feet of self-storage apartments for stashing excess and lightly loved stuff. That number represents 90% of the global inventory. 

All that extra stuff storage is costing consumer/storagers. US industry revenue is over $30 billion annually, and grows in the region of 3% in recent years. More stuff!

Frequently, once stuff goes into a storage unit, the storer never pulls it out again. For various reasons thousands of storage units are abandoned and put up for auction every year. 

This seems like a good example of how we value things less when they are in great supply.


Stuff in a consumer society is in great supply, and all of it has to go somewhere. If the people house is full, and the car house is full, and the yard/garden house is full, that somewhere is a dusty storage block. 

It seems sad and futile, to spend a life working hard to get the money to support the acquiring and curating of your own unique set of stuff, only for some, or all of it, to be forgotten. 

What, then, is it all for? We have so much stuff that we need special places for all of it to live, and often, die. Is this the special purpose of human life? Is this civilized? Am I missing something here?


Work-Buy-Storage-Die?


A self storage locker is an obvious opportunity to do some downsizing and decluttering. Eliminating off-site storage, and all unnecessary, unwanted, and unloved stuff, saves money and promotes peace of mind.

We have known for a long time that having more wealth and stuff than we need does not increase our level of happiness.  

The happiest people on our planet are those that know what enough is, and are content with that. No storage required.






August 14, 2019

Alternatives To Google And Big Tech




In response to my post about the high cost of smart technology, a comment left here highlighted alternatives to Big Tech. Since one way we can take action is by not supporting things we are unhappy with, such a list provides a valuable way to fight back.

That comment reminded me of another extensive list that I came across while doing research on smart speakers and other similar automation technologies. 

While the list is compiled as alternatives to Google, it might be better described as alternatives to many of the big technology companies currently mishandling our personal data, watching/listening/recording everything we do, and aiding in the Big Brotherisation of the planet.

However, Google does represent one of the greatest threats to personal freedoms in the Big Tech domain. A recent Google whistle blower highlights the severity of the problem.


“I gave the documents to Project Veritas, I had been collecting the documents for over a year. And the reason why I collected these documents was because I saw something dark and nefarious going on with the company and I realized that there were going to not only tamper with the elections, but use that tampering with the elections to essentially overthrow the United States.”


You can find "The complete list of alternatives to all Google products" here. 


Note: The blogging platform of this blog is owned by Google. It is too bad that our system is so adept at turning good things into bad things. Do I change platforms, or stay with the evil I know and live with the cognitive dissonance?

Modern life is complicated. But it doesn't have to be. It is a choice we make.





August 12, 2019

Biking For Food... And Energy Efficiency

Bike ready for a 15km round trip to the grocery store. Van? Not so much.

Gas engine cars where never a very good idea. I can see them pulling a dinosaur act soon, dieing in our driveways and being fossilized over the coming eons. 

Why? Because they are notoriously energy inefficient and nature does not reward inefficiency. 

An internal combustion gas engine offers a pathetic 20 - 30% efficiency. The remaining 70 to 80% of the gas in the tank is wasted as exhaust heat, mechanical sound energy, and friction loss, rather than moving the car from point A to point B.

An electric car does better, operating at between 50 and 85% efficiency, but that still does not make it anywhere as efficient as a bicycle.

A bike is the most efficient method of travel in the known Universe. It can be up to 5 times more efficient than walking, and is impressively more efficient than a car.

100 calories of energy will power a bicycle 5 km, while those same calories will only take a car 85 meters. A car is a more efficient mechanism for wasting energy than it is as a method of transportation.





Getting ready for the trip home with my groceries.



A 2015 survey of 44 countries found that only 1/3 of total respondents reported owning a car. That's about the same fraction of Americans over the age of 3 that rode a bike at least once over the last year. 

As part of my experiment in joining that 65% segment of car-free respondents, I have been doing bike-supported grocery shopping trips since our van broke down.

The distance to the store is 7.5 km. Along the way the route descends from 500 ft to sea level. 

On my first trip, I used my travel backpack that has about a 55 L capacity. I carried home 7 kg of food, which got us nicely stocked up.

The entire trip took me 1.5 hours, and it was much more enjoyable than driving. I was freed from the metal cage of the car.

On a bike you are out there, in there, immersed in the scene and part of it all. I saw things I have never seen before while driving, even though I have blasted up and down this road a few times over the past 5 years. 

As I pumped uphill I revelled in the essence of trees and flowers and grass and soil and a million other things organic. I listened to several species of birds singing their songs. 

People greeted me as I pedalled by.



Home is up in the hills in the background. I was the only bike in the lot on this day.

After shopping it felt good to go outside to a waiting bike instead of our van. 

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy driving cars and vans, trucks and tractors. I have also driven limousines, the most insane, idiotic and inefficient vehicles on the planet. 

Yes, for a short while I did personal research on the rich of Edmonton, Alberta while working as a chauffeur. Brushing shoulders with the upper crust was interesting and strange.

I have always enjoyed motor vehicles. Thing is, I love bicycles, too. And when I ride, it is amazing. Just not as fast. Which is good.

On my first grocery ride I was so excited about my hill climb back home with all my food that I rode off like a kid returning home after a visit to the candy store. 

So excited that I forgot my bike helmet outside where my bike was locked up. It's gone.

Other than that, biking for food has been a success. So far it is a viable method that is efficient, effective, and a whole lot of fun.

I am going to have to buy a new helmet. Safety first.





August 11, 2019

Bittersweet Bounty

How many peas could a shifty sheller shell if a shifty sheller could shell peas?
Answer: a couple of kilograms worth.



Sad news: summer is winding down.

Glad news: the garden is winding up. The harvest has begun.



Linda's mom makes a harvest soup called peas podge. Until I met their family I had never had it, or heard of it. It is a dish that signals the bounty of a late summer garden, and the impending end of the season. 

It is, therefore, a bittersweet dish best served with a side of "holy-shit-where-did-the-time-go?"

Peas podge consists of recently picked peas, newly dug potatoes cubed, milk/cream, and butter. Salt and pepper to taste.

This soup would be nicely complimented by a freshly baked, still warm pita bread with za'atar spice (although I think that would enhance any meal). 

Happy harvest to our northern hemisphere readers, and happy seeding to those of you in the south. May you all have a bittersweet bounty at just the right time.







August 10, 2019

Good Music Good Medicine




Humans are messing things up in many areas. Music isn't one of them. 

Across the decades creative people have continued to churn out dependably excellent songs to soothe, inspire, and give us the feeling that we just might make it after all.

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell are two such musicians, and "Always Will" is one such song. 

The music this collaboration has produced is quirky and special, and worth looking up on your favourite video streaming platform.





August 9, 2019

Back To The 1800s

Transportation in New York 1800s style.


Experts say that if we were ever to lose our electrical grid, even if "only" for a year, our standard of living would soon resemble that of the 1800s. That sounds like an adventure one should be prepared for ahead of time.

I take that scenario as approximating living conditions as we make the transition to a drastically lower energy/renewable future.

Curious to see just what conditions were like back then, I did a search. 

"What could we be in store for?", I wanted to know as I entered "living conditions 1800s".

This is how one of the first links I looked at summed the period up:



"Living was hard work. It lasted from sunrise to sunset. Daily life was so difficult that when it came time to die, many felt relief."


At first I laughed, unsure if the author's purpose was to entertain with an overly dramatic exaggerated story, or inform us of actual facts of the time.

Then I was sobered by the thought that it basically did a good job of describing conditions for many people in 2019 already.

On the other hand, cheap, plentiful energy has made life very easy for a small portion of the world's population. Shielded from the realities of their low energy counterparts, making changes could be particularly difficult for them. 

Or is it "us"?

I do think that life in the coming decades will be more difficult, but I also believe it will ultimately be an improvement over the days of thinking that everybody could have everything if we just let selfish capitalism do its thing unhindered and unregulated.

We can see that dream is now in its death throes, and that it was a lie from the start. 

What they didn't tell us is that we would need several more planets to destroy to make their selfish dream happen, and that even then there would be many left out and waiting for the ultimate relief of death.

Now, at this late stage, we will be lucky if we only have to wind things down to the energy level of the 1800s, and not the Stone Age. 


“We still have the possibility to redesign our societies for a huge decrease in energy use. It will upset some people, of course, but the window is still open.”
- Raul Ilargi Meijer





August 6, 2019

Words of Mass Seduction



Words are powerful things. They can be deployed to woo you into supporting endless wars. Or to make you think that people don’t pull triggers, mental illness does (there has been no established link between mental illness and gun violence).

Words deployed with malice and deceit can make you do other dumb things, like buy junk you don’t need.

Advertisers know all the phrases that trigger your impulse to buy, and they are not afraid to use them against you. 

Being aware of these loaded words can help protect you from needless purchases.

Watch out for the following words on packaging or in advertising:

Unique
Luxurious
VIP
Extended
Triple
Premium
Mega

Authentic
Extra
Platinum
Speedy
Ultimate
Pure
Efficient

New
Advanced
Express 
Super
Intensive
Classic
Superior

Ultra
X-large
Deluxe

These are only some of the words marketers use to fire the desired brain cells that will push us to buy their crappy product.

Don’t be fooled. To be forewarned of the words of mass seduction is to be protected.

Watch for these, and think of other loaded words that may be used by sellers of stuff to fight that little frugal voice in your head.


And that is the end of my super mega, unique, classic (and green!) post. I hope you buy it, so you won't be tricked into buying junk you don't need.

Have an ultra superior day.



August 3, 2019

A Triumph of Principles

A return flight from Halifax to Calgary for two would produce 1.11 tons of CO2.


I could have went with the title, "Should we Stay, Or Should We Go?" for this post. I consider this after we were invited to fly an 8000 km round trip to attend a family gathering for the weekend.

Then running across some Ralph Waldo Emerson helped me out with what I thought to be the better title. 

“Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles", he said.

That really spoke to me, so I thought about it for a while.

First I looked to see if there was still a climate emergency. Check. There is.

Then I added to that the extinction emergency, resource emergency, and inequality emergency (to name just a few). The flight was not looking as good as it looks on the surface.

"At what point?" I wondered, "should one start to change ones behaviour?" When it is a Class 1 emergency? A 5? Are we at at 10 yet? Should I change my ways now? 

How about now? Now? When? 

Are we being "climate ignorers"? Being addicted to a consumer lifestyle, like any addiction, requires the denial of the consequences. How long can the ignoring go on?

Moving forward, we all will have to determine exactly what our principles are, and what we are willing to do, or not do, to be true to them. 

Am I willing to stand for what I believe, or do I cave easily and do something that doesn't jell with me just because it would be nice? Or fun. Or out of the ordinary? 

My principles tell me that the two of us flying such a trip would significantly increase our carbon footprint at a time when scientists are imploring us to reduce and even eliminate our carbon consumption. 

My principles tell me there are consequences to our behaviours, and those consequences are now coming to haunt us. The time to change our ways, it seems to me, is now.

Therefore, in the end we decided that while family is important, the importance of our commitment to the Earth, to the larger human family, and to our principles, is greater still. 

Going on such a trip would bear gifts, no doubt, but for us, not as much as not going will.

We are willing to make this sacrifice for the greater good, and see our decision as a triumph of principles. 

We are staying.

That brings me peace, even if I do miss my family.





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